BALDWINSVILLE — Greg Trombly has boxes full of award ribbons to show for his more than four-decade artistic career, but the proof is in the pastels: sunsets sparkle and waterfowl come to life in his landscapes. Visitors to the Beaver Lake Nature Center can see Trombly’s masterpieces on display until the end of the month.

A meet-the-artist reception will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 8. Proceeds from the sale of Trombly’s artwork will benefit Beaver Lake.

Trombly, who splits his time between Baldwinsville and Morro Bay, Calif., retired from Liverpool Central School District about 15 years ago. His work hangs at the Thousand Islands Art Center in Clayton, New York, and the Sacketts Harbor Art Center. He also teaches art in Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Morro Bay.

While he now teaches his craft to others, Trombly’s career in education began not in art but in public school classrooms. He taught primary and secondary school for 15 years and later served as principal of Donlin Drive and Soule Road Primary Schools in Liverpool. Trombly has also taught in the education departments of Le Moyne College, SUNY Oswego, and Alfred University.

Trombly was drawn to the teaching profession after taking an art class with a former Baker High School art teacher.

“In the 1970s, I took an adult education class taught by a local high school art teacher, John Cullen,” Trombly recalls. “I’ve been interested in art since I was a kid – most artists are. It really piqued my interest in art.

Cullen introduced Trombly Soft Pastels: highly pigmented water-based pencils.

“It’s an extremely flexible medium and the vibrancy of color [makes it so] a pastel can look like an oil, it can look like acrylic, it can even look a bit like a watercolor. … It can actually be applied with a brush,” Trombly said. “The blending process I really enjoy. It’s endless in its potential and what you can do with it.

The Beaver Lake retrospective contains over 100 pieces, including traditional pastel landscapes, acrylic abstracts, and a series of depictions of Trombly’s childhood home in Champlain, New York.

“It will be a bit of an eclectic show – hopefully something for everyone,” Trombly said.

Preparing for the exhibition gave Trombly a chance to get rid of his over 40-year-old portfolio.

“I have a few pieces from the 70s that I dug up. Some aren’t too bad, actually. I had a pretty good evolution,” he said. “Some of them, I ripped frames out of them and I keep them, but they’re not worth displaying to the public.”

Trombly uses several of his own photographs as references for each piece.

“I walk outside. We travel a lot. I just have a phenomenal collection of photos: landscapes, seascapes, rocky landscapes, flowers,” he said.

At any time, Trombly has at least two easels running. He’s been working on a piece for a month now.

“Most of the time, I will work on a piece for several days. All my pieces have between 15 and 20 layers of pastel,” he said.

In his workshops, Trombly teaches what he calls the ABCs of pastels: always applying basic drawing skills, blocking colors and creating contrasts.

“Expand your darkest darkness and your brightest lights and from there [develop] the degree of detail you want,” he said.

After beginning to teach art to adults, Trombly was lucky enough to reconnect with his mentor, John Cullen.

“He was the best teacher I ever had,” he told Cullen. “A lot of times we don’t get that feedback from the students.

After all these years, Trombly still finds lessons in every drawing.

“I’m finishing a piece that’s a marina in Sacketts Harbor. What I’m learning – and I’m continually learning – is the process of thinking in water and the colors that reflect each other. It’s always a challenge,” he said.

Trombly’s show runs through October 31 at the Beaver Lake Nature Center, located at 8477 E. Mud Lake Road in Lysander.

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